protect yourself

DJ Wayne G talks about skin cancer diagnosis and a plea to other gay men

DJ and producer Wayne G
Wayne G (Photo: Rikke Photography)

Wayne G has lived a life that many gay men would envy. The British-born, internationally acclaimed circuit party DJ, has spent much of the past 25 years partying hard and traveling the world. He’s enjoyed music success in his own right, as well as a producer and remixer for Cher, Madonna, and Lady Gaga.

The 46-year-old has performed at the like of Sydney Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence in New Orleans and is a resident DJ on Atlantis Cruises.

However, that doesn’t mean his life has been plain sailing. Followers of his social media will know he’s spoken openly about mental health issues, and the last year, in particular, has been tough. The closure of clubs has seen him with almost zero bookings over the last 12 months.

A recent Facebook posting revealed he’d had another battle on his hands: Skin cancer.

“I have shared my mental health issues, my depressions, and my anxiety and therefore I am now, under guidance, sharing my latest journey. I have skin cancer,” he said.

Wayne G undergoes treatment for skin cancer
Wayne shows scars after recent treatment (Photo: Supplied)

“Again. In the grander scheme of things, it’s not that serious. It’s caught early. It’s hopefully treatable with minimal risks.

“The reason for this point is, I know a lot of us gays tend to run into the sunshine or the nearest beach and throw olive oil on ourselves or a little more… I have had BCC and SCC for some years now, from my times in Australia, running to the beach and lounging there for hours, when in fact, I am ginger, half Irish and translucent white. Not good.”

He said he wanted to encourage people to “make a conversation about this. Let’s discuss that it’s not healthy and please, at the first sign that you get something on your skin that is abnormal, get to the blooming doctor. I didn’t. Again.”

Related: Gay men’s skin cancer risk may be more complicated than tanning beds

He went on to talk about the treatment he’s undergoing.

“I’m currently nursing a week+ worth of Moh’s surgery that is removing those legions, layer by layer. It’s a great way to make sure it doesn’t come back or you have minimal scars. Check in with your doctor. Regular. Look at your body and notice any weird spots. Even those anal warts.

“Take the steps you need to. Talk about it. With me. With friends. With a doctor. Anyone. Get the help that is there. Please.”

Wayne has been based in his home city of London during the pandemic. He told Queerty more about his experience with skin cancer. He says he was first diagnosed 11 years ago, in his mid-30s.

“The doctor at the time said to me, that I should expect more, continually over the years. This is the third time since then. This one is the worst yet, unfortunately.”

Wayne has had BCC and SCC. These stand for Basal Cell Carcinoma, which accounts for around 75 in every 100 skin cancers, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which makes up another 20 of every skin cancer diagnoses. The most serious and aggressive form of skin cancer is melanoma, whereas BCC and SCC are non-melanoma cancers.

BCC and SCC affect cells in the upper layer of your skin, while melanoma affects cells deeper in your epidermis and are more likely to spread to other parts of your body. However, you should seek treatment for all types of skin cancer.

“I noticed some tiny red spots,” says Wayne, recalling the early signs. “I just thought they were general little spots like we all get, but they started to go slightly flakey and I couldn’t pick them off. Then they would reappear.

“They were tiny at first, so I really didn’t think too much of it. Then I asked a doctor friend in Sydney, Australia, about them on my chest thinking it was a rash of sorts and he told me I needed to get them checked out immediately.”

“The doctor has said it’s very likely that I exposed myself too much in Australia over the years. The sun there is harsh, with no ozone layer back in the ’90s.

“I was so delighted to be traveling there for gigs, and then I started staying 2-3 months over their summer.

“I would run to the beaches with friends and slap olive oil on my pasty, half-Irish, ginger skin… I would look like a flamingo for days but would eventually turn brown, which of course, as a young gay man, delighted me. I thought it was more attractive to others and myself.

“The campaigns for skin cancer and staying out of the sun didn’t really kick in until early 00’s really. By then, the damage was already done for me.

“Nowadays, if I have a beach day in Oz, my gorgeous friends have all bought tents for me or umbrellas and I am made to sit under them, slathering myself every hour with sun factor 50. I’m not allowed in direct sunlight with any of them anymore,” he laughs.

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He knows that he will probably continue to need treatment.

“With the BCC and SCC, this will be an ongoing thing, for years to come. Once you have had that over-exposure, the damage is done. There is no going back.

“Melanoma can be a different thing but, of course, is way more dangerous. I have had two malignant ones removed already. It’s a painful process, and involves chemo or radio, or both.”

Wayne G
(Photo: Rikke Photography)

What advice would he give to gay men who love to sunbathe for hours or are fond of tanning beds?

“Look, we are adults and it’s lovely being on a beach on holiday with friends, tanning for hours each day over a week or two, but you really have to think about your own skin, and your background. If you do burn easily then stay out of the sun. Period.

“Slap sunscreen on every hour or two. Follow the guidelines that are out there: Don’t sit in the sun between 12-3 pm, the hottest times.

“Look at your skin and body and look for spots that you haven’t seen before or any changes in your freckles or moles. Be aware.

“I don’t think anyone is really ever gonna stop going to the beach but try to protect yourself the best you can. Limit the times you spend there. Re-apply sun protection, especially after coming out of a swim.

“Wear a hat if you can. I now don’t leave the house on any day without suncream on my face or exposed areas. Even in grey, cloudy London.

“Some sunscreens can cause spots but I have found an amazing brand from NZ called Savvytouch. They have an incredible Mango butter SPF 30. It’s been my lifesaver.”

Cancerous lump on the skin will often be red and firm or may look like ulcers. Cancerous patches are more likely to be flat and scaly.

However, if you notice any unusual lumps, ulcers, lesions or skin discoloration that do not heal after four weeks, seek medical advice. The same goes for any moles or freckles that grow, change shape or bleed. Your physician will refer you to a dermatologist or other specialist if you need further investigating.

And don’t forget your sunscreen!